Discovering that your partner is a lying, cheating rat is one of the worst betrayals on earth. The choice is yours: kick ’em to the curb or try to salvage the relationship. Either way, you’ll eventually have to get out of bed and start living again. Here’s our three-step plan for finding life after a liar.
Deal with it
We’ve all seen the image of a scorned woman (or man) dramatically exacting revenge on a cheating partner. Setting his house on fire. Beating up her lover. Vandalizing his car.
But a more common reaction to infidelity is the exact opposite of vengeance; many victims try to act like the betrayal never happened. Denial is a useful crutch that can help us cope in the immediate period after a traumatic event. Yet many people – especially those who decide to stay with their unfaithful partners – turn this temporary coping mechanism into a way of life.
Regardless of whether you intend to leave the cheater or continue the relationship, before you can begin to move on with your life, you’ll need to tackle the difficult and painful journey of actually dealing with the infidelity.
If your goal is to stay with the partner who cheated, you must work together to examine the causes and consequences of the affair. It’s likely you’ll need a professional counselor to help you work through these issues as a couple and as individuals.
Even if you leave the cheater, you still have some soul-searching to do before you can move on. Betrayal can leave lasting psychological wounds that, if left unchecked, can affect how you interact with people for the rest of your life. Though you’ll probably never fully understand the situation, speaking with a therapist or reading self-help books can go a long way in creating clarity.
Let it go
There’s no set time limit for grieving after infidelity. Whether you end the relationship or try to save it, you must cope with the loss of your life as it was.
Depending on the depth and length of the relationship (as well as how “messy” the affair was), you may spend years in therapy, reading books and talking to friends about how infidelity impacted you.
If you ended the relationship, you may find yourself thinking about the person over and over again, wishing things were different. Or your bitterness might make you suspicious about love in general.
If you’re still with the person who cheated, you may have a very difficult time letting go of the infidelity. Even after you think you’ve forgiven him, you may not be able to stop bringing it up.
But at a certain point you’ve got to let go and move on. By hanging on to thoughts about cheating, you allow negativity and betrayal to rule your life. For your relationship, yourself and your sanity, you have to deal with the infidelity and then let go of it.
Make a conscious decision that you will not allow the infidelity to dominate your thoughts. Of course it will cross your mind – but when it does, let the thoughts pass through you and move on to something more positive.
Learn from the past…but trust again
After you’ve truly dealt with the infidelity and let it go, you can finally begin to trust again. Notice the idea is to begin to trust again – there’s no expectation that you will immediately bounce back to trusting like you did before the affair. In fact, you may never trust with that blindness again.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
People who’ve never experienced infidelity have the luxury of naiveté. They trust fully, give all their heart, love boldly and loudly. They do it because they don’t know any better.
But once you’ve experienced an intimate betrayal, you do know better. You have a deep understanding of the pain you risk by trusting again. Yet despite the past, and all you’ve learned from it, you take the risk anyway. You give and receive love again. And because of all that came before it, this love will feel more generous than any you’ve ever experienced.